Jack o lantern
Gina Vickrey, MS Science and Math Teacher

Gina Vickrey, MS Science and Math Teacher

I know what you’re thinking. Why is this woman talking about Halloween in May? Doesn’t she know that Halloween is 157 days away? Trust me she knows! Full disclosure: Halloween is my favorite holiday. Everything about it brings me great joy – the orange and black color combination, the smell and feel of autumn in the air, the carving and decorating of pumpkins, the corn mazes and haunted houses, the apple cider and candy (yes, Sour Patch Kids do taste a tad bit better in October), the costumes, and enjoying a good scary movie or book.  

During this pandemic year, I made it my mission to try to find joy – that same feeling of joy that the Halloween season brings me – wherever I could. Luckily for me, I never had to look far. I have lost track of all the ways that the Forest Ridge community has brought me joy this year. 

It started on Day #1, which I considered to be 5th grade orientation. To meet many of the 5th graders and see them meet their classmates (many of whom were meeting for the first time) brought me joy.  I loved seeing them come to campus periodically during the first semester, participating in scavenger hunts, painting canvases, and decorating pumpkins.  Just to see the excitement they had from simply being together (even in the rain!) brought me joy. 

During digital learning, I found joy (and so did most students) in the impromptu pet greetings and guest sibling appearances during Teams calls. Honestly, how can class possibly continue if you don’t properly introduce your pug to the rest of the class? From seeing small groups collaborating, collecting and analyzing data for their ornithology reports to working with a budget and saving the historic buildings in Beachtown to forming a claim on which drought protection kit they should purchase to protect their Kansas farm, it brought me joy and happiness to see students grow in their learning process.  Students formed their own thoughts and ideas and supported them with reasoning and evidence. 

Beyond teaching students, the joy that my colleagues have brought me this year is beyond measure. Their passion, enthusiasm, and love for working with students drive me to be a better teacher and a better person. I am immensely grateful for the joy and support they have given me this past year.  

When I look back at this past school year – long after the Halloween decorations were put away and the jack o’lanterns were composted – that joyful and happy feeling that Halloween brought me has been here all along. I am looking forward to summer and a hopeful return to a more normal school year in the fall, where the feeling of joy from Halloween is once again reflected for me in our Forest Ridge community.